When You Should—and Shouldn't—Ask Your Partner How Many People They've Slept With
The foundation of any solid relationship is honesty. But should some topics remain off-limits between you and your significant other? Yep—and the number of past sexual partners you’ve both had might be one of them.
“I believe in transparency and honesty as building blocks for healthy relationships,” says Jennifer Wiessner, a Maine-based couples and sex therapist. “However, making the decision to share your past sexual relationships and exploits is one to consider carefully.”
Before you approach your partner and ask about the number of people they've slept with, think about why you're asking, suggests Wiessner. “If your motive is curiosity and to get to know them better, you might be in a solid mindset to have this conversation,” she says.
But if you’re likely to get jealous or judgy about how many (or how few) partners they've had, it's a good idea to skip the question. “Once you have your partner’s information, you can’t un-know it,” says Wiessner. That can become a problem if you feel hurt or uncomfortable when you know the number, which is a position a lot of people find themselves in.
According to Wiessner, it's human nature to be hungry for details about things that really don't make a difference and only serve to inflame our anger or envy. “I see this when I counsel couples where there has been an infidelity,” she says. “Often the aggrieved partner will want to know every detail about every interaction, and it’s rarely helpful to the relationship or to either person’s emotional state.”
The same applies when asking about your significant other's former bedmates—the simple question can snowball into more intrusive queries. And if your partner doesn't give you more details and feed your need to know, you might resort to snooping around on social media or through old texts, which is a big violation of trust.
“A more productive question might be about STD testing and making sure you’re both tested before getting into bed with each other,” says Wiessner. “The number of partners might not matter, but any infections brought into the new relationship will.”
Don't forget, it’s likely your partner will ask you the same exact question, so be sure you’re ready to reveal your roster—and brace yourself if your current partner reacts poorly to what you reveal. That's not necessarily your problem, but do you want to see them upset? Didn't think so.
The bottom line: If you feel confident that the number of past hookups they've had won’t make waves in your relationship, feel free to ask; sharing the info can be a way to grow closer. But if you imagine a too high or too low number and both kind of wig you out, better to not go there.
“In the end, a sexual tally sheet will most certainly not enhance the relationship,” says Wiessner. “Honesty and safe sex practices in your current relationship will.”